Left – Trevor Ashley. Photo – Jeremy Vincent
Trevor Ashley's career may have started in drag, but whichever path he takes, he is obviously quite at home as the ultimate Show Queen. He is superbly talented with an uncanny ability to inhabit and channel the real-life divas he surely adores. The only other Australian performer who is able to match this, is the amazing Paul Capsis.
While Ashley has had a hiatus (playing Thenardier is the recent Les Miserables revival), he is back with the lady who has been incredibly successful for him. Liza Minnelli. Minnelli inspired the brilliant show Liza (on an E), which took Ashley to various countries around the world over the course of a few years.
So how does a performer re-invigorate such a successful formula? Well Ashley and collaborator Phil Scott have conceived and written a show for Liza's return, where the lady muses on all the great musical roles that either eluded her (or she turned down) – but she should have played. Voila! We have a musical journey filled with possibilities.
Liza makes her entrance at the start of the show and immediately launches into classics that would have benefitted from Minnelli's unique touch. A Sound of Music (without the children), Sunset Boulevard, Wicked and an hilarious dance solo for The Music and The Mirror (from A Chorus Line) are just some of the Act One highlights.
Act Two opens with Liza's up tempo version of Do You Hear the People Sing? (Les Miserables), includes a guest appearance from Momma Judy Garland who poignantly sings The Boy with the Bugle (Mame), and eventually leads to Liza's immortal rendition of Memory from Cats ("think Grizabella in a smoky bar"). Of course, Liza could not leave without including her most successful achievement – a medley from Cabaret.
The sequined outfits are there, as is a seven-piece band. playing some great arrangements. The occasional joke goes astray (digs at Barbra and Christopher Reeve), but Ashley's unwavering ability to stay in character for almost two hours is a masterclass in acting and comic timing. Not to mention his vocal flexibility.
While Liza's Back! may not hit the heights of the previous Liza (on an E) it nevertheless is a treat. The uncanny singing, mannerisms, laugh and over-the-top personality of Liza are all there. Even Ms Minnelli would be amused (and flattered).
Arts Centre Melbourne and Showqueen Productions presents
Liza’s Back (is broken)
by Trevor Ashley, Phil Scott and Max Lambert
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
Dates: January 20 – 31, 2016
Tickets: $30 – $75
Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au | 1300 182 183